The article shows how Celso Furtado's interpretation of development and underdevelopment as interdependent phenomena was part of the emergence of development economics as a research field in the 1950s. The main features of underdeveloped economic structures, according to Furtado, were their technological heterogeneity—in the sense of significant differences in the capital-labor ratio between two or more sectors—and underemployment caused by maladjustment between the availability of factors and irreversible production methods. Both characteristics were explained by the historical pattern of integration of those economies into international trade.

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